Measurement = Revenue: One Result that Trade Show Marketers Love

Measurement is one of those trade show marketing requirements that some marketers love to hate. Although it’s a necessary evil for budget justification, it needn’t be the arduous task alluded to by all of the mathematical formulas that surround it—return on investment, return on objectives, and so on.

In fact, measurement can be broken down into a series of smaller processes, each one yielding a rich set of metrics. When multiple sources of data are combined and analyzed, the result is a complete profile of prospects with intent to purchase—the critical element for measuring program effectiveness.

This grouping of data sources is becoming an industry best practice. An excellent discussion on measurement took place recently between Bill Sell (industry veteran and host of The Pulse Network’s on-site studio at Exhibitor2011) and Skip Cox (CEO and President of Exhibit Surveys, Inc.). In the video, Skip talks about the value of collecting information from a number of sources as part of an aggressive measurement strategy. Jeffrey Masters of Philips Healthcare refers to his use of multiple sources of attendee data as a “measurement cocktail.”

Lead retrieval and qualification survey processes are crucial for identifying potential customers. Asking questions using BANT criteria to identify the types of products attendees are looking for, the time frame for purchasing, the manner in which they wish to be communicated with, and their role in decision-making helps to develop a profile of the prospect.

RFID yields valuable intelligence about how a customer behaves in the booth: the products they visit, the duration of the visit, and the number of times they visit a particular product station, for example. When this information is cross-referenced with lead retrieval and survey data, it acts as an indicator of purchase intent.

In-booth surveys, such as those conducted by third-party firms like Exhibit Surveys or by the exhibitors themselves, zero in on the attendee experience.  Typical questions include: What kind of information or products were you looking for? Did you receive the information or help that you required? Were the sales people available when you needed them? Did the product demonstrations answer your questions? Are you inclined to purchase products from this exhibitor?

Video monitoring—the placement of cameras in the booth area—is another method for confirming the staff’s effectiveness in engaging the customer. It also provides exhibitors with insight into how the booth layout and design elements inhibit or motivate attendees to enter the booth and ultimately to purchase.

All four data sources add something different to the analyses of individual attendees and program effectiveness. In-booth surveys and lead retrieval take into account the intentions of the prospect, while RFID behavioral analysis and video monitoring are key indicators of purchase intent.  When analyzed together, trends (as well as deviations) appear and the “hot” leads instantly emerge.  Measurement = revenue is the outcome that trade show marketers are also looking for to gain them greater visibility with senior-level managers.


August 4, 2011 at 10:03 am Leave a comment

Debunking RFID Myths with Facts

With any technology that works passively in the background—including the Internet—there can be misunderstandings about the risks and benefits. RFID (radio frequency identification) is one of the oldest (it’s been in use since World War II), most effective, and (increasingly) economical technologies for measuring attendee behavior at trade shows and conferences, yet for some, it remains mysterious. Here are some plain facts to help clear the confusion.

Fact #1 RFID does not invade a user’s privacy.

Other devices can intercept radio frequencies. However, in the case of the RFID tags used for conferences and trade shows, the only information that can be intercepted—a number called the Electronic Process Code (EPC)—is meaningless unless it is associated with the information (name, title, address, contact information, etc.) gleaned from attendees during the registration process.  To protect privacy, the information read by the RFID readers is placed in one database and the information from registration is stored in another database (from the event registration company). Furthermore, the only information ever recorded by RFID readers is identical to the information that is readily visible on the badge. In fact, RFID badges are more secure than typical barcode badges that contain all attendee information.

Fact #2 RFID is NOT mandatory for attendees.

As with many technologies and processes, providers offer opportunities to opt out of the system.  The same is true with RFID. Attendees may request that their data not be shared with exhibitors or conference organizers to minimize any perceived privacy concerns. Written privacy and opt-out policies can be provided to event participants upon request or placed on the event Website to clarify the organization’s use (and benefits) of the information and options for event participants.

Fact #3 RFID will only read data where the readers are placed.

RFID technology has a level of flexibility that adds to the relevance of the data. The readers—although highly accurate—can only record data within a certain range of the reader equipment. If the readers are placed strategically, they will pick up only the most relevant data and filter out any useless information. Thus, the claim that EVERY move is monitored is not true. Only the most strategic and relevant behavior of attendees and staff is recorded.

Fact #4 RFID can be used to monitor attendees and staff.

The benefits of RFID technology—recording attendee interests and preferences, collecting important business intelligence, and enabling smarter decisions—extends beyond attendees. Many large exhibitors use the devices to improve the productivity of staff members by recording where (what locations within the booth) and when (times of highest booth traffic) they are most productive. The information obtained from these analyses can lead to substantial costs savings, optimal staff placement, and higher productivity.

Fact#5 RFID is not expensive.

In the case of trade shows, the costs for RFID “systems” are split between the event organizer and the exhibitors—the organizer purchases the tags and the exhibitor rents the RFID reader (similar to a lead retrieval device). The avg. cost of a tag is about $0.35 (one tag is embedded on every badge) and the rental fee for a reader is as low as $450 (if rented during the early bird period). This cost is comparable to a lead retrieval device that normally rents for approximately $350. The number of readers necessary depends on the size of the booth and the desired number of read points. It is recommended that 3% of the total trade show budget be spent on measurement and organizers have a number of choices for minimizing those costs.

Event organizers and exhibitors are under pressure from a number of fronts to keep costs down in order to boost return on investment. To do so, they look for technologies that yield high productivity and value. RFID, when fully understood, can help users achieve better data, make better decisions, and lower costs. It is among the methods—cameras have also been used for many years—for monitoring attendee behavior and improving exhibit and conference program performance.

July 19, 2011 at 10:56 am 1 comment

7 Ways to Assist Attendees with Trade Show and Conference Technology

With so much new technology—mobile apps, matchmaking solutions, RFID, social networking platforms, and lead retrieval, for example—it’s becoming more difficult for trade show and conference organizers to keep attendees up-to-date on how to use the tools. Add in augmented reality and hybrid events and the solutions designed to streamline and enhance the event experience suddenly add an unintended layer of complexity to the equation.

Since the solutions come from different vendors, there is (often) no single source for how-to information for event participants. Some event organizers have developed various ways to offer pre-event and on-site technical help to users:

Genius Bar.  An on-site tech support desk with representatives from the various technology suppliers or a tech savvy team that can point visitors to support resources is another way to assist show participants.

Video tutorials. Asking technology suppliers to provide a video tutorial of their applications—which are then prominently displayed on the event Website—as part of their contracts for service is one way for organizers to collect the content without the production costs.

TwitterTech411. Creating a hashtag exclusively for technology questions is a great way for the tech support team to communicate (by sending tweets, links, and telephone numbers) with show participants who have quick questions about technology.

Online Q & A.  Developing an extensive list of questions and answers (with a search box) for the show Website or mobile app is a good way to help exhibitors and attendees help themselves.

Roving Tech Support. Some organizers have considered engaging a tech support team (mobile concierges) to roam the trade show or conference floor with iPads, offering assistance and pointing visitors to additional resources.

On-site Signage. From high-tech kiosks to fiberboard signs, sometimes the simplest way to provide instruction about technology tools is with free-standing signage that participants can read, touch, or scan (as in the case of QR codes).

The 800 Number Help Desk.  Even with all of the advanced ways to get information to attendees, the low-tech methods are still popular. With nearly everyone carrying a mobile phone, what could be easier than calling one number to get all the answers? Even if the person at the other end of the line doesn’t have all of the answers, they can point or transfer callers to other resources for help.

June 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm Leave a comment

Five Ways that iPads will Revolutionize Mobile Apps for Trade Shows and Conferences

Although the iPad was meant to occupy the device category between the mobile phone and the laptop computer, its mobility and utility has enamored users so much that analysts predict tablets will replace laptops in the next 3 years. They are already responsible for significantly reducing the sales of netbooks. Because of their widespread adoption, iPads and similar devices will also influence the design and adoption rates of mobile apps for trade shows and conferences. Here’s how:

  1. Detailed floor plans—with a larger screen, developers can enlarge the detail of trade show floor plans making them more readable and effectively creating more and better digital sponsorship opportunities.
  2. Videos—the ability to view archived and live streaming content comfortably on tablets will prompt developers to build more spaces for viewing video into the apps including, session and speaker videos, video abstracts, product overviews and even virtual booths.
  3. Lead retrieval and survey collection—Because of the iPad’s ability to move quickly and seamlessly from one screen to the next, it has become the perfect tool for data collection and lead qualification. This functionality will induce developers to enhance the data collection capabilities of mobile apps for exhibitors.
  4. Sales automation— Because exhibitors are using iPads to demonstrate products in the booth, showcase product videos and send electronic literature to customers, mobile app developers will enhance the ability for attendees to self-select information from exhibitors before and after their visit to the booth.
  5. Social media—Smartphones and laptops make it easy to share show content, however, the photo and video capture capabilities of the iPad make it easier to collect show content. App developers will capitalize on this functionality by embedding “social media tools” in the apps to make it easier to collect, edit, and share images.

iPads will inevitability increase the adoption rates of mobile apps at trade shows and conferences. Users will download the apps more often to justify the purchase of the device and the simple utility of being able to access content on a larger screen will boost usage. Mobile app developers will continue to create applications with the tablet in mind giving users more reasons to choose iPads over laptops.

June 1, 2011 at 10:06 am 1 comment

Survey Questions that get the Most out of the Lead Qualification Process

The mobility, flexibility, and clean user interfaces of the newest lead retrieval devices—Smartphones and iPads—coupled with state-of-the art 2D barcode readers make the buyer qualification process at trade shows much faster and easier than before. With the extra time, booth staffers can ask more and better questions of attendee buyers.


A basic survey technique called BANT is detailed in the white paper “Metrics are King! Event Justification in a Down Economy.” BANT is an acronym that stands for

Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe. Questions using this framework could include

  • Do you have a budget allocated for our products and services?
  • Do you make the purchase decisions regarding our products and services?
  • Do our products and services meet your needs?
  • What is your timeframe for making a purchase?

Branching Logic

Branching logic—a feature of online surveys—helps exhibitors qualify leads more efficiently using follow up questions that vary depending upon the respondents’ previous answers. The following is an example of a series of questions that use branching logic:

Question: What products are you interested in? Answer:  MRI machines

Question:  What types of MRI machines? Answer:  portable MRI machines

Question: Which models of portable MRI machines would meet your requirements? Answer:  models 2500, 1502, and 4355.

If, at any time the respondent provided a different answer than those shown above, the survey would automatically adjust the follow up question to match the response.

Closed-Ended Questions

Although BANT questions form the basis of a standard lead qualification survey, there are other questions that exhibitors can ask prospects as they go through the booth or watch a demonstration:

  • Are you using similar products and services now?
  • Are you purchasing these types of products and services for the first time or upgrading existing products and services?
  • Where do you normally search for information about these types of products and services? (Provide a list of options)
  • Where did you learn about our company, products, or services? (Provide a list of options)

Open-Ended Questions

While it’s important to ask questions that have a limited range of answers, the newer lead retrieval devices permit exhibitors to include questions that could have open-ended responses:

  • What are the current problems your firm faces that our products and services could solve?
  • What are the specific features and benefits of our product that interest you the most?
  • Which of the features and benefits of our products and services are less important to you?
  • What are the most important factors in your purchase decision?

Good survey questions and responses make leads more valuable. The Metrics are King! white paper explains, “Sales managers know that a higher quantity of leads do not equal more revenue. It is higher quality leads that drive revenue.” With easy-to-use devices and apps offering the ability to use branching logic and record both closed-ended and open-ended responses to survey questions, booth staffers can take full advantage of the limited face-to-face interaction time with prospects.

May 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

iPads at Trade Shows: The New ROI Enhancer

The Apple iPad has revolutionized exhibitor participation in trade shows. Its portability, size, and functionality make it the perfect device for sharing information and communicating on the exhibition floor. Here are some specific uses for iPads that enhance the opportunities for exhibiting companies:

Product demos: Booth staffers can demonstrate products, share video, refer to specification sheets, and show photos using the iPad. They can address issues, solve problems, answer specific questions, access pricing information, and work collaboratively with customers and prospects on site.

Lead retrieval: A number of lead retrieval companies have extended their platforms to mobile devices such as the iPad allowing booth personnel to perform a variety of tasks: scan attendee badges, complete surveys, and move quickly through the qualifying process.

Surveys: The iPad is a perfect tool for collecting data and qualifying attendees on the trade show floor. It converts every face-to-face engagement during the event into an opportunity to learn more about customer needs and obtain contact information for post-show follow-up.

Electronic literature: Using the iPad, exhibitors can send product information, pricing, even proposals to customers via email from the show floor.

Social Marketing: Exhibitors can upload photos in real-time to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter or the company blog to keep their social media channels updated and attract visitors to the booth.

Reporting: Booth staffers can use iPads to view reports, analyze dashboards with real-time data, and forward information to the home office on the number of leads captured or amount of literature emailed to prospects. Leads can be processed immediately instead of post-show.

Remote Control: Some exhibitors use iPads to control external media devices (much like a remote control for your television) such as kiosks and video screens. Based on the needs of the attendee, exhibitors can select the content—product demo, streaming video, Skype transmission, Twitter feed—and the specific screen (inside the booth) on which to display it.

More companies are taking advantage of the iPad’s user-friendly interface, compact size, and powerful applications to enhance business processes and increase their return on investment in trade shows. How are you using iPads at your events?

April 14, 2011 at 10:29 am 4 comments

Key Insights From Philips Healthcare’s “Extreme Measures” Case Study

The February installment of Exhibitor Magazine featured an article about Philips Healthcare’s exhibit marketing program. Led by event industry veteran Jeffrey Masters, the program is returning a 20-to-1 “return on opportunity” using what Masters calls a “measurement cocktail.” His “extreme measures” including RFID helped him reduce costs, shorten his company’s sales cycle, and quantify the value of his trade show program. His success paves the way for other exhibit marketers seeking new ways to measure and make the most of tight resources.

Spend 2-3 % of your show budget on measurement. Jeffrey Masters and others are learning to integrate measurement technology into the standard booth “package.” According to the article, “The cost [of RFID] tacked on no more than an estimated 2 percent to Masters’ budget while allowing him an opportunity to capture data that could almost literally be priceless.” Exhibitors that are unable to increase their exhibit program budgets may consider reallocating a small portion of funds to measurement by reducing expenditures on less profitable items. What’s the ROI on a comfy couch anyway?

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Masters blended a “measurement cocktail” by adding data from multiple sources: RFID, badge swipes, lead retrieval, pre-event surveys, interviews with booth visitors, information collected by RSNA show management, and a post-show survey of booth visitors 60 days after the event concluded.  What he learned by layering and cross-referencing the data was far more revealing than looking at what each of the sources yielded individually.

Use measurement to look your own program in the eye.  While using advanced measurement tools and processes helps exhibitors accelerate the sales cycle by correlating attendee behavior with purchase intent, the value doesn’t end there.  By placing RFID tags on booth staff in 2008, Masters was able to “reduce the number of staff he brought to the show by 20 percent from 2007. That drop from about 1,200 to 1,000 staffers meant an estimated savings of $120,000 or more per day,” Exhibitor says. Putting the right staff in the right place is critical.

More measurement = more revenue.  Depending on the company’s sales and marketing objectives, there are hundreds of different metrics that can be used to measure program effectiveness. Philips monitors 35 different variables in its booth including “minute-by-minute booth-traffic patterns throughout the day; a breakdown of visitors by institution, position, and geography, matched against where they wandered in the booth and how long they spent at each location; attendees’ intent to purchase correlated by job, product type, and areas visited; and even how attendees’ behavior in the booth correlated to Philips’ [net promoter score].” In addition, much of the information is collected in real-time—data is shared at the end of the day instead of weeks later.

Exhibitor magazine’s case study of Philips Healthcare is a compelling behind-the-scenes account of the technology, process, and results of running a 21st century trade show program. Masters’ formula offers key insights for other trade show marketers looking to boost the effectiveness of their programs and move the needle on return on investment.

March 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm Leave a comment

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About Roger

As a 15 year veteran event analyst, Roger Lewis is a leader and visionary in the area of event measurement. He is an expert on utilizing technology, such as radio frequency identification (RFID), to measure and understand marketing performance metrics. As executive vice president of Alliance Tech, Roger has been instrumental in positioning the organization as the number one provider of event business intelligence metrics for Fortune 500 companies. More about Roger

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